Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sex offenders in churches

What can a church congregation do when one of their number is a convicted sex offender who says church attendance is important for his rehabilitation? A Reno, Nev. congregation is grappling with just that issue.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, clergy and members at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd are in a quandry over how to protect their children while following Christ's example of welcoming sinners.

"Clearly, we are called to love," said the Rev. Rebecca Schlatter, associate pastor. "But is it safe to love this particular person up close?" ...

First, one needs to recognize that the statistics on recidivism rates one sees tend to be either completely false ("they all repeat over and over") or misleading (many "recidivist" crimes are actually something else completely, not sex offenses). This is no reason to relax, however -- there are a few who do repeat, over and over.

But there is a solution. Several years ago an outfit called Prisoners for Christ Outreach Ministries ( developed a protocol for churches bringing a sex offender into their midst. I do not know what has happened with it, but it would seem that by now it's been tried and even refined.

Welcome a sex offender into your church family? Probably one of the best things you can do for his rehabilitation -- not to mention his soul. But use the protocol.


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